The Great Item Squish Debate in World of Warcraft

Posted Thu, Nov 17, 2011 by Xerin

Stats are out of control in World of Warcraft and Blizzard is aiming to rein them in, but what does this mean for the playerbase? If you haven’t noticed yet, but we’re getting to the point 100,000 damage is a joke and 400 Strength / Intellect / Agility is an everyday kind of thing. Looking back at TBC we often shouted with glee when we there was 50 Str / Int / Agi on an item. In Mists of Pandaria are we going to see items that are nearing 1,000 stat points? What will the damage look like; will it grow into the millions?

Blizzard has put forth the idea that it is time to rein things in, before our screens are full of numbers and the game becomes too bloated with stats. There are two methodologies they can use. The first is to crunch all of the numbers in on itself (item squishing) and the other is to, instead of dealing 4 million damage, do 4 mega damage. Both are valid options, but neither are good ones.

The Pros and Cons of the Great Item Squishing

If we squish all the item level down then everyone will be less cool, effectively squishing the cool right out of them. Sure, we’d all be doing the same percentage, but the numbers will feel like back to The Burning Crusade days vs. being the awesome captains of amazing we are today. No one will be the god of WoW anymore when they crit and it’ll be a bit depressing.

On the other hand, MEGA DAMAGE reaches the same conclusion, just taking a different path. Doing 80k damage is sweet, but doing 8 mega damage seems… rather small, outside of the word “mega.” It’s like asking if you want to crit for 5,000 damage or 5 mega damage. It’s a hard choice and neither option is great.

If we leave things the way they are now, as you can witness above, the stats are just going to keep getting more ridiculous. This has a lot of bad things with it. First, how do you tell the difference between 10,000,000 and 100,000,000 at a glance? How about 100,000,000 and 100,000,000,000? As the numbers grow our eyes become less capable of sorting through and processing them. Figuring out that you’ve been doing 8,000 with auto attacks and crit for 13,000 is easy. Figuring out doing 32,000,000,000 auto attacks and 54,000,000,000 crits is just a bit inconvenient. For those of you questioning my logic, think of the numbers as scrolling combat text vs. just numbers on a web page.

So using any method at all to fix it is a great thing because at least we’ll be able to figure out what our damage is. Yet, if we lower what our damage numbers are (even if we still do the same percentage of damage to monsters) then we’re all going to get grumpy, upset, and probably throw our shoe at our monitors.

Item squishing is just going to feel like out and out nerf while mega damage is like doing 2 “cool” damage instead of 2,0323,511 damage.

Alternative Solutions to the Item Squish

So it’s bad no matter which we go, so what can we do about it? Well, I think we should pull a Cataclysm styled revamp of the entire combat system. The only reason people are going to feel as if they are nerfed is if they are doing combat the same way they have for ages. So why don’t we change combat which, in turn, let’s us change the numbers? Who says we need to stick to the auto-attack and use a spell rotation to defeat bosses? Why not revamp the entire system, make it fun, exciting, and familiar enough not to have a mass exodus because of too much change?

Let’s say that instead of the current system, we use a new system that lets you charge physical attacks. If you go from 80k auto-attacks to 8k you might feel nerfed, but what if the new standard as an 8k auto-attack but if you held the auto-attack button for a charged hit you did 18k (but was less efficient than just auto attacking)? Sure, the numbers are smaller, but there is a direct mechanical way to make the numbers higher, satisfying that big number crave and would solve the problem of melee losing DPS while having to move away from bosses.

As for stats on gear, let’s throw away numbers and bring back percentages. Who cares if you have 800 Agility now? Let’s have 1% crit on items again. Tier 1: 1%, Tier 2: 2%, Tier 3: 3% and then the next expansion. Who is with me?

A complete combat revamp is needed, but here is the problem: people hate change. Don’t lie to me and tell me that you’d be all for a combat revamp and don’t complain that Blizzard couldn’t do it right (remember, they made the original one you’re so fond of right now). Change is scary and people fear it would be all wrong, which is why we probably will never see a new combat system.

Number Inflation

I had a conversation with a good friend years ago after the first expansion when he claimed he was quitting due to number inflation. That each expansion was nothing more than more numbers to entice you to go out and buy it and that it was the same game repackaged. Years later, I would still argue that I enjoy each expansion and the quests and raids that are added, but I am starting to feel like the game is just about adding in a new leveling zone you rush through, dungeons that you grind for gear, and raids that you work hard at for prestige loot.

Something needs to change and it shouldn’t just be a band-aid on the problem. Some kind of new, fun, and exciting addition to the game that brings interest back and gives old players something new to look forward to. Cataclysm change the game up, but as players got more raid gear it returned to the usual ram head into encounters until your guild has it and call it a day gameplay that we’re all used to. At least, that is how I see it.

What are your thoughts on the item inflation? Should we just do millions of damage and be happy with it or should the item level of the gear get squished? Leave your comments below!

What's all this "we" stuff? Though you are right, nobody speaks on behalf of Blizzard because everyone on the Blizzard development team is locked away high up in their ivory tower. Isolated, oblivious and completely out of touch with the playerbase (reality too in my opinion). The generally negative playerbase reaction to MoP and the bizarre attitude of the devs who think MoP is awesome is proof enough of that.

Blizzard has been making one blunder after another and it's largely attributed to not listening to their playerbase. The devs day they're going to do XYZ, the playerbase spells out exactly why that's a bad idea, the playerbase then details the consequences that will come of it, Blizzard does it anyways and it goes bad EXACTLY as the playerbase said it would. I mean really now, WTF Blizzard?

Kung Fu Panda and Pokemon in WoW now? Blizzard has unquestionably lost touch with their rapidly dwindling playerbase.

That's why WoW is hemorrhaging subscriptions. Give the players what THEY like and stop pumping out pure garbage and trying to force the playerbase to like it. CCP learned this lesson recently and have been trying to get back on track. Blizzard it seems hasen't even noticed they have a problem yet and probably never will.

So, wait. Is Blizzard going to be stealing a concept and term from Palladium games (RIFTS. Irony there.), or is that just the author trying to pass off the idea as his own?

"Leave your comments below!"
It would help if Ten Ton Hammer wasn't auto flagging every other comment made. I lost two so far just on this article.

Regardless, I'm not going to rewrite the whole thing because it was lengthy. Needless to say that Blizzard is oblivious and unquestionably out of touch with the playerbase (and reality too in my opinion). The generally negative reaction to MoP and the repeat insistence by the lead dev that it is in fact not a joke is clear evidence of that.

The devs haven't had an original idea for WoWs development since back in pre BC days and MoP is obviously no exception (Kung Fu Panda and Pokemon in WoW now?) I would challenge anyone who'd disagree with this to cite an example of a post BC game feature that Blizzard didn't rip or steal from another game.

Blizzard doesn't innovate, they imitate.
Since no other MMO has tackled this problem yet, it means Blizzard is unable to tackle the problem.

Test comment. Seems nobody can get comments in through all the false flagging.

If you feel nerfed then your are a moron. Taking all damage/ items down a percentage and rescaling them makes the most logical sense... It should be a simple database change with out breaking many of the working systems in the game.

To suggest a full combat revamp is a silly idea. They are re doing the talents which in turn means they are redoing a good section of the skills in combat. Doing all this at the same time will alleviate it from feeling like a "nerf". If people honestly cant handle their numbers going down, but still being 100% as effective maybe they should do something other than play WoW.

That's honestly how it should be.

I wish to thank Blizzard for releasing Cataclysm. It cured me of any inclination towards gaming addiction !
Cured...cured at last. I never got to 84 and if my account is ever hacked, they are welcome to the nearly
20k gold on my 10 characters.

I look forward to seeing what Blizzard does with Titan but otherwise I am going to look elsewhere for my mmo gaming.

To me it seems that some people in the playerbase think that they are the player base.

WoW is the biggest mmo out on the market, which means a huge vairity of players and players wants n needs.

The MoP is just a sign of the the old player base are growing older, and the base player base is getting younger.

Back to topic of items, squishing them is a great idea, numbers are runing out of control making them silly to count. Just look at how pvp is interacted with a newly dinged 85 vs someone in pvp gear. The player in pvp gear onshots the player without, while the player with out pvp gear can't even outdamage the selfregen on the player with resiliance gear.
DMG figures are just to big. Crit, defensive figures n so on seem fine(tho numbers on gear is far to big there aswell), it's the core dmg stats and stamina that are out of propotion.

Combat rewap? Try another game instead (like AoC) with it's own flaws n "unhappy playerbase"

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Thanks, I'm glad you found this post to be informative.

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